George Tiller lived his life in service to others — his family; his patients; his colleagues and friends; his church; and his community.
Jeanne Guenther and George Tiller met at summer camp when they were in junior high school, remained “pen pals” over the years, and married in 1964. A native of Wichita, Kansas, George Tiller graduated from the University of Kansas School of Medicine in 1967. He served his medical internship at the U.S. Naval Hospital at Camp Pendleton, California, and became a Navy Flight Surgeon. When his father, mother, sister, and brother-in-law were killed in a 1970 plane crash, George changed his career plans. He returned to Wichita to adopt his sister’s son, care for his two surviving elderly grandmothers, and continue his father’s general medical practice. Wichita remained George’s home until his death in 2009.
Dr. Tiller was the Medical Director of George R. Tiller, M.D., P.A., Family Practice and the founder and Medical Director for Women’s Health Care Services specializing in late-term termination of pregnancy for fetal abnormalities.
At the time of his death, George was board certified with the American Board of Family Practice, an Associate of the American Society of Addiction Medicine, and a clinical instructor in the Department of Family Medicine for Wesley Medical Center, where he formerly served as president of the medical staff. He participated in a variety of national organizations in support of reproductive health, and was a highly recognized speaker and lecturer.
Dr. Tiller was active in his community in many ways. He was the former Medical Director for the Women’s Alcohol Treatment Program for the Sedgwick County Health Department, and team physician for the Wichita Wings professional indoor soccer team. Without a doubt, George Tiller valued his family above all else. Jeanne and George raised four children. Today, they have 10 grandchildren whose lives he imprinted, and who feel the loss of a man they called “Poppa.” Jeanne Tiller said that most photos of George in recent years include him holding one grandchild or another, sharing a book, or curling up together napping. One of his greatest joys, she says, was his annual holiday stint playing Santa Claus, complete with red suit and beard. George was an avid sportsman and dedicated to fitness.
George’s family, friends, and staff recall with fondness his list of “Tillerisms” — his views on life and living that were boiled down to pithy phrases or maxims. These “Tillerisms” kept him going, through lengthy and often violent protests; through media attacks; through the personal harassment and threats that surrounded him during much of his professional life. Daughter Rebecca said he often advised her that, “Life is Project Bootstrap — sometimes you just have to pick yourself up by your bootstraps and keep on going.” His philosophy, “Attitude is Everything,” was a reminder he wore on a button every day for 30 years.
George Tiller died as he had lived — in service to others.
He was murdered on May 31, 2009, while ushering at his Wichita church. His tragic and violent death created a hole in the lives of the family members he loved, and a void within women’s reproductive health services.
We invite you to join us in our mission to continue Dr. Tiller’s efforts to make appropriate health services readily available for women in need.